Early Railways Shire Book 1569 to 1830 and other early railway titles

Another excellent Shire Library book, a short illustrated introduction covering the earliest days of mineral tramways from horse-drawn tramways into the experimental steam era.

Book Blurb “In the popular mind, the history of the railway begins in 1830 with the opening of the Liverpool & Manchester Railway. In fact, by that time the concept of the railway in Britain was already more than 250 years old. The interim is a fascinating but little-known period of experimentation, improvement and invention which included such remarkable oddities as an Elizabethan version of the ‘Scalextric’, an early ‘JCB’, and an engine fitted with steam-powered legs. Innovations such as iron rails, inclines and the pioneering locomotives were gradually introduced, so that by 1830 the basic principles of the modern railway were already in place.

Never again would the industry see such fundamental development, and it is this heady and industrious period that Early Railways examines, in fascinating detail and with lavish illustrations.”


The authors Andy Guy and Jim Rees were involved in the Beamish Living History Museum 1825 early tramway recreation and the National Railway Museum at York.

Although I am not a railway modeller (but come from a family of railway modellers), I grew up on the edge of London near one early railway which is covered in this book and near a famous later railway tunnel where many navvies died.

Early inventions and incarnations of now familiar things fascinate me, including the ‘also rans’ and failures.

Jack Simmons‘ scholarly book on The Victorian Railway (Thames and Hudson, 1991/2009) is very good for this, as is Gordon Biddle’s Victorian Stations 1830 -1923 (David Charles, 1973) and the early part of the Victorian Farm team’s TV series Full Steam Ahead. All books worth a review on this blog sometime.

These books chronicle the many ways in which the “vandalism” of railways changed our towns, our countryside, our culture and the world.

Tunnels had to be dug, viaducts built Roman style and track had to be laid leading to the strange and riotous life of the navvy camps The navvies had already done the same for the canals and inland waterways, which were often eclipsed by their new upstart neighbour running alongside them.

Stations had to be built and carriages designed for people, often mimicking the stage coaches and infrastructure of the mail coaches of the day.

eBay image source: my copy of this unusual subject for a Britain’s figure is boxed away in storage somewhere!

I live in the Southwest UK and 150 years on still travel from a Victorian station on a Great Western Railway system of bridges, lines and tunnels created by Brunel.

Cornish inventors like Richard Trevithick, William Murdoch and Goldsworthy Gurney tried creating both steam cars or wagons and engines for roads.

If it had worked in the late 1820s, the post Napoleonic and Crimean era Victorian British Army could have ridden to war on a Gurney steam car or steam drag and dragged its guns there with steam. Instead Brunel built the “Crimean Railway” or tramway. Christian Wolmer has written an interesting history of railways at war called Engines of War.

Goldsworthy Gurney steam drag, 1820s (Wikimedia source)


Before dying aged 18 / 19 in the trenches in the final year of WW1, my Great Uncle had been a fit young “steam waggon stoker” in this road steam version of a locomotive and lorry, a curious and rare “steam hybrid” that I got to look around recently at a local steam fair. The internal combustion engine, road freight and diesel lorry eventually won over that rival or competitor. The world with its vanished branchlines is probably poorer for it.

Before this Victorian era, there were rail ways or tramways across my current landscape. I now live in a village like much of its area and road network still awkwardly shaped in parts by its early 19th century life as a horse tram and steam Mineral Tramway and docks for the Cornish mines, like many such tramways in Devon, Cornwall and the North. I still work in the shadow of a stone railway viaduct to a coastal town that owes its seaside heritage and modern trade to a mineral tramway that ended up shipping in tourists and holidaymakers when the minerals petered out.

Pull the Emergency Stop Chain now! Woah there!

Caught myself there before the railway madness in the family descends full steam ahead on me …

If you search early railways, you will find a range of interesting books including this one:


If you hanker after early tramways and railways, be warned, there is not much off the shelf Or ready to run engines and rolling stock. You’ll have to build lots of fiddly twiddly stuff.

Good to know that the original Airfix Stephenson’s Rocket kit (static model) and railway labourers are still available from good old Dapol:


Almost steampunk, two of the odder Airfix figures with their fine top hats.

They could join my Victorian policeman conversion (can you recognise the original Airfix figure with a ‘straw’ top hat?) sorting out those riotous navvies.

The sign reads “Stop Now! This (rail) way madness lies …”

Blog Post Script

I have Mr. Bob Cordery to blame for this post, having posted about his Diddly Dums.


One of the comments on his blog jokily mentioned Beware joining the “chuff puff loonies” so it’s obviously not just my family curse.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN, 18 February 2023. Toot toot!


Puerto Borracho Railway

I found this charming small railway online (following a post by Mike Siggins) and thought I’d share it with you. It’s on Facebook …

And the videos are also available on Facebook

Such as this Youtube clip https://youtu.be/c-w20_Q0HTg

It’s a cheery, jokey, charming, colourful and beautifully detailed layout and project. Well worth watching.

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN 8 January 2023

4mm Cowes Single Box illustration

I stuck this illustration (from Railway Modelling magazine? c. 2012?) in my scrapbook as it reminded me of modeller Stan Catchpol’s column in Military Modelling magazine in the 1980s.

Drawn by Ian C. Robinson

I like the Lilliputian / Borrowers aspects of the tiny railway people coming alive to build your ‘model’ railway / their normal railway …

Blog post by Mark Man Of TIN, 4 December 2022

Railway Civilians – Steam Fair Haul 2022

In £1 packets, I picked up every one they had on a railway modelling stall at a recent West Country Steam Fair, my first Fair since the pandemic and 2019. This haul was £8 worth.

I have not yet posted the 54mm plastic figure haul from 2018 – one for a rainy day!

Plastic Soldier Review http://plasticsoldierreview.com/review.aspx?id=366

The 1961 Airfix Civilians set designed by John Niblett. Its box art of urban Britain is just about how I remember it as a late 1960s / early 70s child. These Civilian figures have not been available since 1973 to 1975.

I grew up with a few of these civilian oddities mixed in as ‘personalities’ mixed in with my motley mix of HO/OO toy soldiers.

I like the description of the characters on the box back –

Image from Airfix’s Little Soldiers, Jean-Christophe Carbonel – I like the silhouettes of the figures.

The struggling postman with mail sack has lots of character. It’s good to be able to name and identify poses – although some are not now quite PC? (2 Fat Men)

These Station Accessories and mix of railway figures and workers are often not listed with military figures in some Airfix reference books. They feel a little forgotten, less familiar or undiscovered.

Plastic Soldier Review ‘Station Accessories’ review page:


Image source: the lovely Dapol website – pure Airfix purchasable nostalgia

Wonderfully Airfix Railway figures are all still available from Dapol in hard grey plastic including this old 1960s Platform Figures and Accessories set.

These are slight and slender (HO 1:87 maybe according to Plastic Soldier Review?) in comparison to the chunkier 1961 Airfix Civilians above and later 1970s Airfix. This is in the same way perhaps that first version 1960s Airfix figures such as Infantry Combat Group, German Infantry, 8th Army and Afrika Korps are small compared to their 1970s larger Airfix second versions.

Worth mentioning that those familiar Airfix building kits – the thatched cottage, Church, windmill, Tudorbethan house and others – are still available from the same Dapol website.

Other former Airfix figures still available from Dapol:

Airfix Platform Accessories (and figures)


Airfix Railway Workmen


Airfix Platform Figures https://www.dapol.co.uk/shop/model-accessories/self-assembly-oo-kits/c008-platform-figures-set-of-36-510

Blog posted by Mark Man Of TIN on 31 August 2022

DMZ Post No. 3 – Tank Engine Tuesday

In place of the promised tankettes and Tankette Tuesday, here is the DMZ demilitarised version: Tank Engine Tuesday

DMZ? https://manoftinblogtwo.wordpress.com/2022/02/24/some-more-peaceful-or-non-lethal-tabletop-strategy-games/

Tank Engine Tuesday? No that’s not engines for tanks. I once saw a Matilda tank engine for sale on EBay and thought for a moment, it’s a start. A Matilda Tank on the Front Lawn would certainly be a conversation piece …

Anyway a DMZ demilitarised look at my occasional Sidetracked blog, where my gaming life sometimes overlaps with railways and model railways.

Ben, this lovely beast of a Tank Engine is still lurking in the family toy cupboards, along with this vintage handmade station with its tin and card adverts

According to the authoritative https://ttte.fandom.com/wiki/Bill_and_Ben

“Bill and Ben are based on the Bagnall 0-4-0STs “Alfred” and “Judy” of Par [Docks] in Cornwall, who are both preserved and in working order at the excellent Bodmin and Wenford Railway in Cornwall.”

“According to the foreword of Thomas and the Twins, Alfred and Judy are both Bill and Ben’s twins. Alfred was once repainted yellow for a Days Out with Thomas event, to resemble Bill.”



Railways are one DMZ demilitarised and relaxing modelling way of keeping the crafting modelling hands busy during current disquieting events.


Its an occasional itch – I come from a Model Railway Family (we’re all about 1 inch tall, made of plastic and don’t move around much).


Peter Dennis’ versatile civilians from his Little Wars, 54mm Paperboys – great passengers!


One of the attractive sections of H.G. Wells’ Floor Games (1911) is the ‘lectric, or clockwork engines, the photographs of the cities and islands by his wife Amy Catherine (“Jane”) Wells and the charming drawings by illustrator J.R. (John Ramage) Sinclair.

Floor Games 1911


The most attractive parts of railway modelling has always been the scenics and especially the figures, often a useful (but sometimes expensiv e source) of civilians for my DMZ Demilitarised Games – snowballers, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts / Guides …






Some interesting DMZ reading and viewing


Why not Do a Snooville? I remember this at the time from the family Railway Modeller magazine! https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2019/10/13/do-a-snooville/

Much as I like British railways and vanished quirky branch lines, I also like American railroads, Mixed Train Daily and Short Lines (Hello citizens of Bowdon!)



I also like pop up instant railways

whether in a tin,


a pop up book https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/2020/05/22/pop-up-railway-americana/

or a Wild West battery train set and birdhouse trackside station


Set up and taken down in minutes. Instant fix. Quick joy.

Even a quirky pen and ink digital railway?




Why not take it around in a suitcase?



Taken from my occasional blog – https://sidetracked2017blog.wordpress.com/

Blogposted by Mark Man of TIN, 1st March 2022

“Some suggestions for toymakers” 1911

Some charming figures – Illustration by J.R. Sinclair from H G Wells’ “Floor Games” of 1911

Cheap and charming civilians, especially period ones in 54mm, are still hard to find. Not much has changed since 1911 then!


Working again researching and blog posting about H.G. Wells’ book “Little Wars” of 1911, I was reminded of this great illustration page of characters.

This book was expanded by H. G. Wells from a small end section of “Floor Games” of 1911 into two magazine articles and the famous book.

The charming railways section of “Floor Games” is explored and illustrated more here:


Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN, 5 December 2021

Now with Added Trains …

A Russian Civil War armoured trains gaming scenario from the Wargaming for Grown Ups website:


Everyday Tasks on the Steam Railway – Bennett Brook railway archive films on YouTube

The Bennett Brook Railway channel of railway archive films on YouTube shows Training films on everyday tasks such as track maintenance in the age of steam, including these great 1950s track gang.

To me they look just like the Airfix track workers still available from Dapol.

You can access the channel via YouTube through their railway newsreel archive posts such as: https://youtu.be/MGszU8cA8_I

It’s all the everyday detail that make such films fascinating.

Blog posted by Mark Man of TIN on Sidetracked, 28 December 2020.

Last Express Train on the Southwold Railway 1929

The Last Train from Southwold 1929


Southwold Railway History


Precious post link to Southwold Railway


As featured in


Little Wars Railway – Peter Dennis PaperBoys Paper Soldiers 54mm Civilians

The fabulous Little Wars Paperboys volume by Peter Dennis of 54mm figures

Whilst I was cutting out more of the civilians from Peter Dennis’ Little Wars PaperBoys book, I thought that these figures not only look good on a toy theatre stage but they look very much like railway civilians with their bags and baggage.

With all the head and arm variants, these are highly versatile Victorian, Edwardian and early 20th Century 54mm paper card figures.

Peter Dennis’ PaperBoys 54mm paper civilian figures as passengers on Little Wars Railway (the LWR and HGWR)

Tucked away on the platform is one of my paper suffragettes (made using one of Peter Dennis’ figure outlines for scale).

Keen eyed ‘Little Wars’ / ‘Floor Games’ fans will spot an advert for Jabz Hair Colour (as handwritten in Floor Games by Wells or G.P.W. one of his two sons).

I presume they are meant by Peter Dennis to be evacuees for the War of the Worlds element of the Little Wars PaperBoys volume of H.G. Wells, as well as civilians for Wells’ Little Wars.

The station is plastic OOHO Hornby platform, Lemax Christmas Village lantern, whilst the Halt building is our family’s old wooden farm buildings from the 1960s.

You may have seen a similar platform set up with 54mm hollowcast and new metal figures on my LWR Little Wars Railway blog post here on my Sidetracked blog in May 2020:


The train set and track is from a toy plastic battery operated Wilko Western Express bought in 2018.

Blogposted on Sidetracked by Mark Man of TIN, 21 December 2020.